Residents fear traffic from Epping mall on their street
Developer Jack Murray's proposal for a 15,900-square-foot retail plaza to be built between Route 125 and Railroad Avenue is being met with resistance from residents who fear the project will generate too much traffic on their rural street.
Sharon Gauthier, who lives on nearby Acre Street, told the planning board at a meeting last week that because Railroad Avenue is a dead-end street, children are used to sledding and playing near the side of the road.
"There's little kids on Railroad Avenue," she said. "This is a dead-end street. They're used to having it a dead-end street. . These kids need to have some kind of life."
The plaza, which will include 84 parking spaces, will be built on 1.56 acres of commercial land next to a Shell gas station at the intersection of Routes 125 and 27, with access from Route 125 and Railroad Avenue.
Railroad Avenue used to connect to Route 125, but a barricade was put up years ago to make it a dead-end street and block access to busy Route 125.
The project originally called for a 4,500-square-foot building, but has been expanded to 15,900 square feet.
Residents on Railroad Avenue and Acre Street have voiced concern about Route 125 traffic using the plaza as a shortcut to access Railroad Avenue and avoid heavy traffic at the lights at the intersection of Routes 125 and 27. Railroad Avenue connects to Route 27.
Wayne Morrill, a project engineer with Jones and Beach Engineers in Stratham, said "no thru traffic" signs will be posted at the plaza, but residents said they won't make a difference.
Railroad Avenue resident Will Myott said police recommended closing the street for safety reasons years ago and that allowing access to the plaza "goes against everything that was done."
"Everybody knows they're going to use it," he said of people cutting through the plaza's parking lot to reach Railroad Avenue.
Gauthier said she's also worried about tractor-trailer trucks lining up on Railroad Avenue to make deliveries.
Morrill said some changes have been made to the plan, including the addition of more landscaping along Railroad Avenue to create a buffer.
However, the plan still includes access to Railroad Avenue, a feature that has also been questioned by planning board members.
Morrill said the access is intended for local traffic only.
"It's a convenience, but it's not something that's absolutely required to make this fly," said Joseph Foley, planning board chairman.
Planning board member Bruce Chapman, who is also deputy fire chief, said access to Railroad Avenue isn't something that's needed as far as the fire department is concerned.
The planning board made no decisions on the project, which will go back before the board Feb. 14.